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This ten armed statue of goddess Mahakali, or Kali represents her in her full form and with all attributes as described in Indian early texts, especially in Agni, Garuda, Devi and Bhagavata Puranas. Some texts consider her as another form or aspect of Durga, though wide spread worship cult of Kali assigns her an independent and as much significant status. She is, however, acclaimed as Shiva's spouse with greater unanimity. With her dominating nature she is said to control Shiva, who otherwise controls the entire cosmos. In iconographic representations she is, hence sometimes depicted, as here, standing upon Shiva lying under her feet. The 'puranas' thus symbolise her influence on Shiva.
In these 'puranas' Kali has been identified as the goddess who brings success in war and eliminates enemies. As the goddess of war, blood-shed, sacrifice, frenzy, destruction and violence of all kinds Kali carries in her hands neither a rosary, lotus, pot or anything which promotes life nor raises her hand to bless or impart 'abhaya'. Her attributes are mostly the weapons or exploits of war. In consonance with the 'puranas' this statue of the goddess carries in her ten hands drawn sword, bow and arrow, suckle, mace, wheel, shield, bowl, decollated human head, trident and conch. On her waist she is wearing the girdle of alike-dismembered human hands and heads and a garland of skulls on her breast. Her eyebrows consist of venomous female serpents. She has her tongue rolling out her mouth, though not smeared in blood as it usually does in most Kali icons. Artist's vision of the goddess is both votive and aesthetic. In her round face, fine attractive features, elegantly and proportionately carved figure, amicably branched arms, fine long fingers, slim figure, well shaped eyes, befitting ornamentation and serenity on face the artist has packed in a single form the ever conflicting elements - the awe and beauty.
This Kali of 'puranas' has an awful appearance, imparts destruction and works for instability. She is usually gaunt, has fangs, laughs loudly, dances madly, wears garlands of corpses, sits on the back of a ghost, feeds herself on fresh human blood and lives in cremation ground. But quite strangely despite this ugly or non-aesthetic appearance Kali has been for centuries not only the favourite deity of violence-edict warriors, thieves, plunderers, violent tribes and charmers but also the chosen goddess of poets and dramatists from all over the land. The seventh century dramatist Banabhatta features her in his best known play Kadambari, though he addresses her as Chandi. His contemporary poet Vakpati portrays her in his Gaudavaho as Vindhyavasini and a little later the known Samskrit dramatist Bhavabhuti mentions her in his play Malatimadhava as Chamunda. Beyond sectarian considerations Sikhs' tenth guru Guru Gobind Singh wrote a long narrative poem on the goddess. She is worshipped with alike reverence by both, a Bastar's tribesman and a highly sophisticated Bengali of Calcutta.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.
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